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December 16, 2013
Life on Planet Kathy
It's All in Your Mind
by Kathryn H. Kidd

My feet are the bane of my existence. One would think that paralyzed feet wouldn't cause a lot of trouble, but mine are always up to some mischief or other.

My right foot likes to creep up on its side and lie on my left foot. When I discover what has happened, the pain is excruciating. No matter where I am or what I am doing, I have to move that errant foot now.

The third and fourth toes on my right foot have a tendency to creep through a hole in my sock and get caught there, strangulated. The pain of that is even worse than the pain of my whole right foot lying on its side on the left foot. I reach down and scrabble to remove my shoe and correct the situation.

Why did Fluffy put a holey sock on my foot, anyway? Didn’t he know the trouble it could cause?

But it’s not just my feet. My socks tend to cut into my paralyzed legs up at the top, where the sock ends. It can lie there all day long without any trouble, but suddenly the pain hits and I have to get that sock off that leg pronto. Occasionally the sock will travel down toward my ankle and bite into the skin there before cutting off the circulation. Boy, does that hurt!

There is only one problem. Everything is imaginary. When I look down (sometimes a dozen or so times per hour) to remove the right foot from on top of the left one, the right foot is nowhere near the left foot. It is sitting innocently on the floor, parallel to the left foot, minding its business and not causing any trouble at all.

In all the hundreds of times I have looked, the right foot has never been on top of the left foot — not even once.

The same thing is true of all my other fears. Every last one of them is imaginary. I should know this because I have not been wearing socks. There are no socks on my feet to have holes that will trap the third and fourth toes on my right foot. There are no socks on my legs to bite into the tender skin of ankle or calf. 

Having sock issues is usually not a problem when you are not wearing socks in the first place, but try to tell my feet that!

The knowledge that all my fears are groundless doesn’t stop me from having those fears. I still look down in a panic when I realize my right foot is on top of my left foot. I still scrabble to remove my third and fourth toe from the holes in my sock, or to pull the sock away from my calf or my ankle.

And although I haven’t mentioned it previously, I still look down in a panic, often, to make sure that one of my toes has not caught on fire. Because, you see, all the signs tell me that at least one toe is aflame. Quite often the flames have engulfed an entire foot, and I didn’t even know how those toes had gotten hold of a box of matches.

Those fears are as real to me as the monster under the bed is real to a four-year-old, or the specter of cancer is to the woman who has been called in to consult with her doctor after routine blood work has been drawn. We can tell ourselves not to worry a hundred times, or even a thousand times, but the fears are so real that we can’t talk ourselves down no matter how hard we try.

We recently heard a story about a man who had let fear destroy his life.  He was a high school principal who had discovered some students using drugs and had reported them to the police.  In retaliation for this, some of the students decided to shoot up the school and specifically gun down the principal. 

This plan was discovered by intercepting some letters, and the plot was halted before any violence occurred. Despite this, the principal’s life was ruined.  He immediately quit his job and spent all his time hiding in his house, fearing that he was going to be killed.  It got so bad that he refused to take out the garbage and his house filled with trash. 

His family left him and eventually stopped coming to see him because they were so appalled by the way he was living.  Pretty soon his only companions were the rats that were attracted by the filth in his home. In many respects, his fear of the unknown caused more damage to his life than the students he originally feared.

To a lesser extent, can't we all relate to this story just a little bit?  Haven't we all had times in our lives when we let irrational fears get a little grip on us?  Someone once said that it is an act of faith just to get out of bed each morning.  We can lie in bed and worry about what the day might hold, or we can get up, exercise some faith that it will be a good day, and then do our best to make it that way. 

The human mind is one of God’s greatest creations. We can use it to create great symphonies, amazing inventions, stunning artwork, or monsters under our beds.

One of the most powerful scriptures on courage comes from Paul’s letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7), where he writes:

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Paul says right there in black and white that fear does not come from God. Power, love, and peace are God’s tools. But the Doctrine and Covenants says it even better. Doctrine and Covenants 50:24 says God bathes us in light:

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

If I’ve ever heard of the antithesis of the monster under the bed, that’s it. God doesn’t expect us to be fearful. He expects to wrap us in light like a shield, so that we can go forth, courageous, to live our lives.

As the winter gets darker and colder, I want to think of God wrapping me up in his love as the ultimate blanket of light and warmth. The temperature may be cold outside, but with God on our side, we need never fear — no matter how many monsters try to hide in our closets or under our beds.

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